You know how people quote things that other people have said, and then follow it by saying “This,” to show that they agree? Well, Greg Rucka wrote this over at the Lady Sabre & The Pirates of Ineffable Aether blog yesterday:
Here’s the thing: I am sick and tired of super-heroes who aren’t super and aren’t heroes, but more, I’m sick and tired of Hollywood blaming us for their failures. I am sick and tired of hearing various Hollywood studio execs who are as disconnected from the reality of middle-American taste as Rick Perry is from Christianity excusing the poor performance of their ill-executed product by tacitly blaming you, me, and everyone else of us who didn’t pay to see their garbage. Catwoman fails? Instead of, perhaps, just perhaps, acknowledging that the movie is a piece of excrement unworthy of use as fertilizer, they conclude instead that a female lead can’t open a movie unless her name is Jolie. So now we’re not only guilty of not being willing to pay for 90 minutes of intellectual abuse, we’re all apparently sexist jerks, as well. The problem with Green Lantern’s performance at the box office is that it’s not “gritty” enough? I don’t think so.
Art – and even if that art is commercial art, produced for entertainment – feeds and is fed by the society that consumes it. So I ask you, right now, looking around you, what flavor of escapism will go down best with you? In an era of terror alerts and bipartisan dysfunction, of rising hate and blossoming intolerance, of bank failure and wide-spread, global unemployment and recession, is gritty really what we need?
Look, I like gritty. I write gritty. There is a time and a place for gritty. I’ll take my Batman gritty, thank you, and I will acknowledge that such a portrayal means that my 11 year old has to wait before he sees The Dark Knight. But if Hollywood turns out a Superman movie that I can’t take him to? They’ve done something wrong. Superman is many, many things. Gritty he is not, something that Richard Donner certainly understood.
(Pet peeve time: for the contingent out there who sneer at heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman and Captain America, those icons who still, at their core, represent selfless sacrifice for the greater good, and who justify their contempt by saying, oh, it’s so unrealistic, no one would ever be so noble… grow up. Seriously. Cynicism is not maturity, do not mistake the one for the other. If you truly cannot accept a story where someone does the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, that says far more about who you are than these characters.)
This is not an argument of era or audience sophistication. Sophistication does not negate sincerity, nor does it even deny it, as the Captain America movie proves. Sophistication demands better storytelling, clearer motivation, purer intention. “Gritty” is an apologist word in this sense, used in the place of “realism.” We don’t go to the movies for “realism.” This is why documentaries aren’t the major product in the theaters. Sophistication does not demand realism; it demands smart.
And… oh, man. This. This times a million.